My Romance With Running

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Takahe to Akaroa – NZRR 2018

This year National Road Relays was run from Sign of the Takahe to Akaroa, 76 kilometres over the hills of Christchurch with stunning views that nobody ever remembers seeing because they are running too hard.

From the moment the team lists came out from Athletics Canterbury, the messenger chat tones started to ding with predictions of who would come out the victors. Teams would change with people pulling out due to injuries, but the respect the Scottish ladies have for captain Lindsay Barwick meant that nobody DARED to get injured (or not fly all the way to Dunners at 8.30 on Friday night then drive to Christchurch and arrive at 3am to make the start line), and so the Scottish teams remained perfectly intact.

UC had the strongest line up featuring Olympian Angie Petty, several national medalists, world mountain runner Sabrina Grogan, that Barwick-sized Scottish lass that smashed the NI XC course, ex-Scottish member Ariana Harper, and the legendary Fiona Crombie who holds the women’s course records for both lap 3 AND 5.

Bays Athletics were down two entire teams after a win in 2017, and their B team taking a solid 5th. They were missing a few key members with Annika Pfitzinger in the US, and Lydia O’Donnell and Esther Keown busy elsewhere racing and promoting Anchor Protein+ which unlike most flavoured milk drinks, contains no added sugar. After a bit of digging around the ANZ rankings site it was clear that they still had the depth to place, but sadly it was looking like this year’s Instagram boomerangs would not be from the very top of the podium.

To Scottish’s delight the Hamilton Hawks had lost Nicole Mitchell, but definitely had the best cartoonist in the field with Dawn Tuffery. Alaina Brent had finally broken ties with WHAC to strengthen the Hawks line up, but some of their top performers from 2017 were missing.

The North Canterbury team would take way too much admin to stalk results for so it was assumed that they would not be an immediate threat to the podium, and they flew under the radar/ thousand foot long irrigator like tumbleweeds with really nice drought-coloured hair.

Scottish’s arch rivals WHAC have a solid line up every year, and this year was no exception. Their team included new seniors Maiya Christini and Kelsey Foreman, who make other seniors look forward to their 35th birthday. They had recently lost Mel Black to injury, Alice Wilson to the Middle East, and with Sarah Drought slowed down by about 4% heading in to her third trimester, would they still have the edge to make the podium?

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WHaction shot of poster girl Letha-l Whitham showing why you should always be weary of WHAC

Scottish had the strongest A team in recent history and looked to be in with a medal chance for silver or bronze. The years of the ‘A’ team being last by twenty full minutes were gone. Captain Lindsay Barwick (who is not quiet) had been quietly working away all year to form a team. It included NZ Master’s record holder Tina Faulkner, national 10,000 medallist Ayesha Shafi, trail specialist that will also beat you on any other surface Ruby Muir, and the perfectly tanned Nicole Mitchell who happened to not be in Bali that weekend.

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The Scottish SW A Team ❤

But the real competition would be at the back of the field for 7th and 8th. Our neighbours to the north, Olympic Harriers were rumoured to be Riceman-ing together a team, and special dispensation had been obtained to run some junior women in the senior grade. A club plagued with mutli-sporters they had convinced Grace Seely to ditch the mountain bike and Jo Doherty to take a trip to Christchurch to show the rest of the field what your upper body can look like if you care to use it.

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The team for the B-babez to B-eat, Olympic Harriers

As the only person who had run Takahe to Akaroa before, I was bestowed the honour of B team captain. I quickly set up a group chat with my team and somewhat less painfully than the other birth I’d witnessed this year, the B-Babez were born.

A coffee roaster, a self-described choreographer, a vegan, a baby. On paper the team did not look like a threat to any race records, but you don’t need to be fast to be legendary.

Emma Bassett gave us the early lead over Olympic on lap one, 4km steady uphill then a rapid descent with undulations to finish this 9.6km lap. The hint of nervousness I detected the night before the race disappeared as she pounded down the hill, hooning through the changeover while pointing at things to feign confusion.

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DEAD LEGS – FRESH PEGS

Olympic had harnessed the hurricane that is Deb Lynch for lap two- a long 10.4km with a large climb to Gebbies Valley. Every Scottish team has an import and thankfully we had the budget this year to ship Clare McKinlay across from the UK for lap two. Head to head with Deb on this lap, the triathlete’s strength gave Olympic the lead heading in to lap 3.

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Danielle Trewoon, amping after 80 minutes in a confined van shaking with drum and bass was fully committed to getting back to her stash of VB as fast as possible, and ran close to a PB on the flat 10km lap 3. Grabbing the lead back from Olympic this gave Jaime Vessiot a two minute head start heading in to lap 4.

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Ten points if you guess who has just finished their lap

The juniors proved how indispensable those dispensations were with Emma Douglass dominating the 9.4km lap 4 to give Olympic the lead again. With the head Riceman Sarah set to run lap five it was looking like the B-Babez would be but a distant memory in Olympic’s race recap. On the longest lap number 5, Kate Slater tackled the headwind for 10.7km and made sure that Sarah was never more than a few hundred metres ahead.

Meanwhile….

At the lap 5/6 change-over Charlotte Riceman and myself stood peering down the road into the distance, past the other waiting teams, past a cow giving birth in the paddock, past Nick Horspool lying in the long grass in a foetal position, awaiting our team members to arrive.

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Thoughts and prayers x

‘I can’t see her coming, is she coming?’

‘Don’t think so…?’

‘No I literally can’t see, I’m pretty much blind, can you tell me if you see Sarah?’

What would happen if I didn’t? Would I witness a guttural scream from Sarah alerting Charlotte to her arrival? Would she straight mow her sister down in to the gravel and run her over?

As these scenarios played out beneath my neatly pigtailed head Sarah ran (quite fabulously) in to sight and Charlotte moved to the middle of the changeover then off towards the 6km long hill.

A few minutes went by as I nervously waited for Kate to arrive, and when she did she was giving it everything. There is nothing quite as motivating to set you up to run a great race as witnessing someone digging deep and putting in work for the team.

I took the flax baton, painted in Scottish red, yellow and black and set off to run the hill that has DOUBLE the elevation of the Makara hill climb.

The men’s teams were all catching up at this stage so I had multiple cheer squads on my lap. ‘Good job Amanda!’. Support is nice, but what really works for me is a bit of Britney.

Britney

Up, up, up, around sweeping corners with views down a valley that I couldn’t enjoy because my eyes were crusting up with sweat. At least I knew Charlotte wouldn’t be seeing any of it either. I kept looking at the distance on my watch, half way, oh dear.

Brendon and Elliot were cheering for me along the way, only because they like my boobs (which looked massive in the company of runners) and I finally caught up to Charlotte with 300m to go.

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As I crested the hill, Naomi Christensen was waiting at the changeover ready to sacrifice her quads on the 9.5km downhill lap seven. As Naomi descended in to hell, Emma came up with a bag of Jaffas because she is the best person in the world and offered me a handful in exchange for the details of my lap time. A victory for the ladies, we had beaten the Scottish SM D team runner by two minutes*.

Meg Fahy had stipulated in the lap selection conversation that she did not like ‘uphills’. Taking that quite literally, Meg was given lap 8. It wasn’t just uphills. There had been murmurs within the team pre-race that this was the hardest lap, and very hilly. I calmly waved these aside and flat out lied about how easy the lap was, because sometimes that’s what you have to do. Two weeks of stressing about a run? Or 50 minutes of awful pain in your legs and hatred directed at your team captain?

Olympic had Jo Doherty on their final leg so unless the loud screaming from their van popped one of her eardrums, setting her off balance and sending her down a cliff into the harbour, our battle for 7th and 8th was all but over. Meg was a champion over the hills and arrived in Akaroa looking a bit like ‘What the fuck’ and charged across the finish line to bring our team home in 5.48.54.

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The gorgeous happy fizzers that are the B-Babez + confused lion cub mascot

Our team was 8th behind Olympic, we bettered the last Scottish A team’s result from 2015 by 13 minutes, and we were the B team! With the new depth within the club’s women’s section it won’t be long until we achieve the notoriety of our men’s sections B-Boys.

Our SW A team did win bronze, their first medal since 2014 on this same course, and 8 minutes faster than the bronze medal winners of 2014!

 

 

Full results are here, Scottish cleaned up in the men’s races but perhaps most impressively, there were 14 teams from across every club in Wellington on the podiums. Seeing the familiar faces from inter-club events, track sessions at Newtown Park and casual runs around the bays beaming from the podium, cheering for their team, collapsing with relief at the finish line and celebrating with their mates shows what an incredible running community we have in the capital city.

Our club Scottish came away with top club for 2018, a great result for the 16 teams and 130 or so runners and supporters who travelled to Christchurch for the weekend.

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Scottish Harriers- Top Club 2018!

Note*A late challenge was put fourth to the Scottish B-Babez by the senior men’s D team. They may have beaten us on total time but we bettered them on laps 1, 3, 6 & 7. They can call that a victory if they like but I’m yet to see any nail art or baby mascots from them so…

 

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The Wrong Side of the Bed

Tyres pumped up, lights fully charged, kit laid out, snacks ready, alarm set. I was pretty excited about doing a hill session with the HCR group early on Thursday. Riding with friends as the sun is coming up is such a great way to start the day.

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Then I got out of the wrong side of the bed…

Thankfully this was at 11.30pm, so I just got back in. I got back out on the right side at 1am. 3am came around, woops, wrong side! Better try again. 4.15am, woohoo! Right side, but a couple of hours too early. Better get back in!

As much as you can prepare to make sure you fit in some exercise, there are some things that you can’t help. Things like your baby waking up 7 times in the night; the four month sleep regression is a real thing.

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The alternative to my hill session.

I haven’t been feeling very enthusiastic about exercising the past few weeks. The usual tactics I use to motivate myself just aren’t working for me.

In the past I would be thinking about a goal, and each session would be a step towards completing it. Right now I am a bit aimless with my running because I don’t have any goals to work towards. This is largely because I don’t want to put the pressure on myself or on my body to train hard.

Just run for the fun of it then! Well. The only times I can run are early morning or late in the evening. Often it is a run in the dark, and I’m on a short leash- limited to the extremely hilly neighbourhood streets. The running is almost always done alone. Where is the fun in that?

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All charged up and nowhere to run

My fitness and health have been a priority for me since 2009 when the price of Southern Gold increased from five bucks for a six pack and I realised that the cost of partying wasn’t just hurting my wallet.

It’s hard to make it a priority when you have another human to look after that needs to be fed, clothed, cleaned and now, entertained!

Last Sunday I should have done a long ride to train for the 160km cycling race (gulp, nervous fart) that I am doing in November. Three hours or more on the bike by myself was not appealing. I would rather spend time with my family and do something relaxing with them; go for a walk, have coffee, eat cookies, blow spit bubbles and do some out of control arm and leg flailing on the floor with no pants on.

I was happy that I chose family time, but felt a little bad that I was lacking in motivation to train for the big event I had committed to. The more I thought about it, I realised that I was motivated. Looking back at what I did that week, I still did two sessions on my wind trainer, I ran four times, I did rehab work and I walked with the buggy.

That doesn’t say ‘not motivated’ that says that my priorities have changed and I’m giving time to the things that are important to me.

I did have a win recently when I ran pretty close to my race handicap time of 32 minutes for 8km at my club’s Tanadees cup club race. I was a bit disappointed to go 26 seconds over the time then I realised how ridiculous I was being. I am proud of this run! I am only running 30km a week and have had such a long break from running. That can only mean good things ahead right?

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Closed eyes, striking heel, weird headband and no lippy. Disaster.

I did a three hour ride last month and I am hoping to do a couple of five hour rides in the lead up to my event but since E no longer takes a bottle this is going to involve a few loops that stop off at my house to make sure I can feed her. Hopefully she is keen on the bottle by the time the event comes around, if not I will find a way to work around it.

I’m not going to worry about ride logistics and possible baby challenges right now, because it’s bound to change and worrying won’t get me anywhere. I’m also not going to compare myself to pre-baby me because that is pointless too, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy unless you just got a Strava CR’

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Nervous shitters

Why do you get nervous before a big event? What is it that makes you feel so queazy that you need to do a number 2? 
My friend ‘that running girl’ Sophie and I were discussing how many nervous shits we were going to take before our race this Sunday. It’s the Christchurch half marathon, which will also be the New Zealand Championships.

Just talking about the race was making me nervous. To the point where I would fart each time the word Christchurch was even mentioned. Lord give me strength in unmentionable places on race day.

Nervous
 1. easily agitated or alarmed.”a sensitive, nervous person”

Synonyms: highly strung, easily frightened, easily agitated, anxious, edgy, tense, excitable, jumpy, skittish, brittle, neurotic, hysterical.

Nervous poo sounds better than skittish poo, jumpy poo or neurotic poo. Tense poo? I’ve had a few of those.

Holding back a turtle head before my relay lap

Apparently the nervous poo is a natural animal instinct (fight or flight). It comes from the fact that your body is making it’s primary task conserving energy so that you can flee and defend yourself against predators, like lions, or the sassy WHAC girls. This includes releasing bowel muscles and losing control.


“The overall effect of these changes is to sharpen all your senses and enable you to perform optimally in a life threatening situation. All your blood is diverted to your muscles, while non essential systems are shut down. The faster, deeper breathing brings more oxygen into the blood and this helps the muscles to work faster. OPENING OF THE BLADDER AND BOWELS REDUCES THE NEED FOR OTHER INTERNAL ACTIVITY, lessens your weight if you flee and may put off attackers. In case of flight, you’ll run faster, see better, hear more acutely.” (source)

So in short, we do a nervous poo because shit is about to go down.
When the racing flats have been laced up, the ponytail has been tightened and you’ve made pancakes in the porta loos it’s race time!

I don’t think it’s purely scientific reasons that tell us to take a tense turd. I think the nervous poo comes from giving a shit about something, it’s a good thing. It means you are anticipating something, you’re excited, and that something means a great deal to you. Going in to an event that you have trained your ass off for you have expectations, you expect that the training has paid off.


I told myself long ago that I would never shit myself during a race. UNLESS I was winning it. I know I won’t win this one, so that story might have to wait. The bonus of needing to shit during a race is that the poo is also a racing poo, flight mode makes you poo at top speed so you’ll only lose a minute tops taking a dump mid-run.

Now that I know why I feel the need to take a nervous poo before a big event, I feel pretty happy. Happy that my body knows that shit is about to go down, we gotta lose that Hells Pizza we ate on Friday night so we can get that half marathon PB! If you hear me saying thank you and patting my behind in the portaloo tomorrow this is why.

💩


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There is no such race as a non-race

Word of advice, don’t enter a race with the idea that you are ‘not going to race it’.

You’re either bitching out and making an excuse to go slow, or you are a delusional post-injury runner who thinks that they learned something from seven months off and will take things easy now.

THE NON-RACE

Turn up to the Scottish Waterfront 5km race with the idea that you will be a supporter. You’re the Captain of the women’s team now so you need to be present, and clapping, and smiley. Pay $8 for the entry, to you know, give the club some extra cash because you are such a good person.

You’re going to be sensible today, you didn’t do the 16km that was on your training plan because you are still getting over the horrendous cold that put you out of action for two weeks. (The cold that lasted for two weeks because you kept trying to run before you were better, and running in the rain, and just being an idiot in general).

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A demonstration of my new and improved running form after two sick weeks

Oh look, you’re already in your running gear! Co-inkydink? I think not. Let’s just jog it you say to yourself, you can feel your eye twitch because you know you’re lying. Coach Kevin says that if you must run, it is best to run with the 25 minute plus group so that you aren’t tempted to race.

With each minute that passes before the start time you adjust your goal pace to be a second faster, arriving at a still quite sensible pace of 4.45 per km. Sensible for the runner recovering from a chest cough, green snot and stress fracture? Yeah sure!

You don’t warm up because you don’t need to before this non-race, because you are going to jog it.

This is the sort of logic you are using

This is the sort of logic you are using

Set the scene: You are standing amongst a gangle of 17 year old boys at the start line. Lanky awkward boys who look built for running because they haven’t discovered beer yet. All wear size 12+ shoes that none have ever learned to tie properly. One minute to go until the start time. One of the lankies starts to count down from fif-ty-nine, fif-ty-eight, fif-ty-seven, thankfully his voice breaks in to a high pitched squeal and he stops the countdown.

Up until someone says Go, you have made good decisions.  That magic word go. The ‘Go on throw caution to the wind!’ kind of Go. Go NUTS.

Upon hearing GO! we all speed off through the first kilometre, weaving through meandering crowds on the Wellington waterfront. The plan of doing the sensible 4.45 pace isn’t 4.45, it’s 4.20. That is still ok you think, I can hold this pace, it’s still cruising…

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Views on course of the Scottish Waterfront 5km race

The lankies start to fade after five minutes. You stick to an even pace and cruise past them, making sure to run as close as possible up behind them to let them know that you make angry breathing noises when you run fast. This is where it becomes hard to stick to an even pace, not physically, mentally. In front of you are 12 more lankies, clomping size twelves along the pavement and fading fast. All have targets on their backs, ‘Hey there, if you speed up to 4.05 you can pass me! If you do an even 4minute you’ll pass me too! Faster faster faster!

Your ego takes control of your legs and you now have tunnel vision where you can only see targets ahead and nothing. Else. Matters. You hear Hinano’s voice in your head ‘Run with your balls!’ Balls to the wall, you give it 110%.

The familiar feeling creeps in, the lactic acid in your quads, the spit gathers at the corners of your mouth, you drive hard for the finish line and with a final burst of speed make it past the orange cones. You sit on the ground heaving and panting for a split second before realising that you jogged that race. So you stand up, breathe normally, and walk calmly over to talk to Coach Kevin about your future jogging plans.

My final time for the 5km was 21.17, a good 100 seconds off my PB but because I ran down all those stinky teenagers and I feel like it was a good run. An ego boosting run. I have been back in to running for two months now after seven months off so anything is a win!